Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SIREN and the Hawaiian Research Odyssey

Only a few weeks late, but I'm finally going to tell you about my Most Beautiful Place on Earth, and the story that made the research necessary. Of course you know I will do anything for research, and it's only coincidental that the place I have to research happens to be the one place I'd rather go than anywhere else. Really. Honest.

All right, not quite. But it is true that my knowledge of Hawaii helped to form the story. Nothing in this story is possible, of course. But it's still my job to persuade you the story is real. You won't need to know everything I know, but if I don't know it, I won't present my story authentically. And so there I was, marveling at the sea as it crashes ashore at the black sand beach at Punalu'u. The sea really is a different color here, a deeper, more dramatic, purer blue because of the black sand beneath it. (That's a sea turtle. The sign says to leave her alone- she's resting. She's had a long journey.)

SIREN is a novella, a historical fantasy romance of the seas, taking place mostly under the sea, but the last third takes place on O'ahu. It's the story of an ordinary man who fell into the Siren's embrace and found himself beneath the sea as Siren's lover. In my story, when Siren comes ashore to rejoin her lover, John Wall, the Islanders call her Namaka-o-Kaha'i, the older sister of Pele. They say when Pele and Namaka-o-Kaha'i were feuding, Pele threw burning lava at her and set her hair afire. And Siren's long fiery red hair proves it because her hair is still burning. But John Wall is just a man, and nothing that has happened to him is possible. He doesn't understand Siren, or sea goddesses, how he could have lived beneath the sea without breathing, or how he got from the Coast of Africa to the middle of the Pacific. He only knows he loves Siren obsessively.

Before I left I was still toying with the idea of setting it on The Big Island. Everything could fit there. But it was Pele I found everywhere on the Big Island.

This is her home, Halema'uma'u Crater, on Kilauea. It's immense. It's really a crater within a giant 8-shaped crater, with the smaller Kilauea Iki at the far end. Several years ago we hiked across the floor of Kilauea Iki, a long, hot and steamy hike with nearly vertical descent and ascent back out of the crater. You can see some nearly vertical crater walls above. Below, you can see part of the bigger crater from a different viewpoint.

The crater is hazy here. All that steam is loaded with sulfur dioxide. I didn't realize how active the volcano would be while we were there, and I under-estimated how nasty the fumes could be.

We drove down the Chain of Craters road, which drops from the almost chilly height of over 4,000 feet to sea level in only a few miles, over a high cliff where the volcanic rock drop-faulted over a thousand feet. The hardened lava looks ropy and sinuous from the air, but up close the thick flows are chaotic jumbles. Forests of tree ferns and ohi'a lehua at the summit, but a massive swath of death and chaos below. Here is where the road ends, cut off by a large lava flow. In the distance, maybe you can see the point formed by the new lawa flows.
This is a link to a terrific map of the park and the Chain of Craters Road.

We drove to the other side of the road, where people often walk in at night to view the glowing lava. We did the walk across the old flows to the sea, about a mile, we guessed. Not a smart thing to do in sandals. The black sand is like a very coarse grit, and it gets into open shoes and makes for painful walking. We were disappointed because we couldn't see much, but it was becoming obvious the sulfur dioxide was not good for my lungs so we didn't make the night walk.

Instead, we enjoyed the incredible full moon from the lava block hot tub. I've been to this condo three times, and it's the hot tub that's really unforgettable. But it's so quiet, so peaceful- only the crashing waves can be heard at night.

On our return to Kona to fly out to Honolulu, we stopped once again at our favorite restaurant, Coffee Shack which sits on the cliff high above Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook was killed in 1779. We're almost 2,000 feet up, and on the steep slope below is a coffee plantation, where the most wonderful coffee in the world grows.

A couple of geckos vied for right of way on the lanai railing. I watched for awhile, and the poor fellow on the right always gave in and slid over the railing to let the others pass.

I'm always so sad to leave the Big Island because I love it so much. But as we flew out of Kona, and I looked down at the haze of grit, steam and gases the trade winds had blown in from Kilauea, I knew this was not the place for my story. This is Pele's home. The land echoes with her power. Pele the Creator of Land, Pele the Eater of Land.

No, my Siren/Namaka-o-Kaha'i belongs somewhere else. And that will be O'ahu. I'll tell you all about it , and why, next time.

Oh, and I'll tell you about the great prizes I found, too. Including the one I'm keeping.

Coming Back!

I'm finally on the mend! Thanks, all of you for your patience.

I'm planning a post for tomorrow, Thursday July 2, so you can know Hawai'i is still my most beautiful place on earth, even if it does harbor nasty H1N1 viruses. I'm going through my photos now, and I have to say I have major regrets for all the wonderful things I missed. But I didn't miss everything.


About Me

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.